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Articles of 2005

Lovemore N’Dou Talks Boxing

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I caught up with Light-Welterweight contender Lovemore N’Dou in his Los Angeles hotel room as he prepared to face British switch-hitting Junior Witter in a WBC eliminator this weekend.

Always fit, always quotable, the self-styled “Black Panther” was in a confident mood ahead of his latest short-notice assignment.

Hi Lovemore, thanks for agreeing to talk to me again. How are you finding LA? When did you arrive?

Everything is great, we arrived on Thursday because I wanted to get acclimatised and I’ve been here two days now and I’m already feeling better.

How are the facilities?

Excellent, the facilities are great; we’re in a good hotel. We got everything arranged before we left Australia and everything was organised here, training facilities, everything.

I don’t really need to ask Lovemore, but I guess you were already in training when the fight came up?

I’m in the shape of my life for this fight; I’m in great, great shape. I was in training all through Christmas hoping the Floyd Mayweather fight would come up. This fight has come at just the right moment. Everything is right.

Has your full team travelled with you? Are Billy Hussein and Jeff with you?

Billy Hussein and Angelo Hyder are here, with some of the guys from the gym, Danny Green and some of the boys.

So have you taken any American sparring to mimic Junior’s style?

No, no sparring, we completed all the sparring before we left Australia…

Just lighter work – “tapering” down?

Yes, just tapering down and taking care of one or two minor things.

Junior’s known for having quite a distinctive, individual style. Have you actually seen him fight? Are you one for watching videos of your rivals?

Of course I’ve watched all the other Light-Welterweights; it’s my job to watch them. He’s awkward and switches every one or two seconds! But I can adapt to any style. Sure, he may be awkward for a round, maybe two, but I’ll work it out. Lovemore N’Dou is adaptable. I’ll catch up with him eventually.

Lovemore, you mentioned that you were in training right through Christmas. How long have you known about the possibility of tackling Witter? You were a late replacement for Gianluca Branco after all.

Only about two weeks and even then it wasn’t confirmed. At one stage I heard he didn’t want the fight, they wanted to fight someone else, but if they want this fight to be the WBC eliminator they have to go through me. I’m the next available fighter. I’m not interested in the Commonwealth title. If it wasn’t for the WBC eliminator I wouldn’t be fighting Witter.

The Commonwealth belt doesn’t do much for you on the world scene does it?

No, not really. I want world titles. I’m highly ranked by the IBF. After Hatton, Kostya Tszyu has to fight me next. So I don’t have to fight Witter. Remember, if HBO can’t make Gatti vs. Mayweather because Floyd is in jail, then who are they going to turn to? Lovemore N’Dou. You know, everybody knows, Junior Witter is not a TV fighter. HBO will want to make me versus Gatti.

When we spoke back in September, we mostly talked about Hatton and Tszyu. I mentioned Witter and you said you’d fight him anywhere, tomorrow. Despite that, are you surprised you’re now fighting him? It is out of the blue?

I knew I’d have to fight him in my future at some point; he’s a contender and a good fighter. People say to me just sit on your ranking. But why? Why not just make the fights?

Are you surprised Junior is prepared to take the fight?

Well, yes and no. He has his high ranking, but if he wants that mandatory position he needs the eliminator and to have that he has to come through me. He’s a contender and a good fighter so I’m not surprised, but I don’t think deep in his heart he wants the fight. His promoters know I’m gonna whup their boy. They’re already asking for rematch clauses.

Have you agreed to a rematch clause then? Is it in the contract?

I don’t see why I should have to; I don’t want to agree to it.

Looking back through your record is there anyone who you feel has a similar style to Junior?

Back in Australia there is a fighter who’s exactly the same as Witter. He switches stances every other second. We call him Young Billy. He had the opportunity to travel to England to train with the Brendan Ingle. He’s a perfect style match. I’ve sparred with him lots of times and the guys from the gym have been mimicking his style for me too, switching stance, moving, you know, so I’m very prepared.

That mix of mover and knockout puncher is hard to match –

(Interrupts) Knockout punching!? Look, Junior’s a good fighter and I have all the respect in the world for him. I respect any fighter, but he’s had handpicked opponents. I could have fought a 100 fighters like the ones he’s been facing and been knocking them all out!

They said Miguel Cotto could punch, but I took him the distance and in the end I had him running, (repeats) had HIM running! And I was on short-notice and had a hurt rib. I just don’t see Junior knocking me out, it just won’t happen, out of the question!

What do you put your ability to take a shot down to? Is it simply good preparation?

Yes, its preparation and heart, a big, big heart.

This fight is obviously a high stakes contest for both of you, but for Junior it’s the first chance he gets to show his skills to the sceptical American audience since the Judah fight. Do you think the big occasion could see him return to his defensive shell? Ricky Hatton always maintained he would when faced with the big fights?

No, I don’t think so. Junior is going to come out to fighting, and as for going into his shell, I don’t think so – he’ll come to throw his shots.

The last time we spoke, I titled the interview “I’m the next Bernard Hopkins” because it stood out in our conversation. It must be a thrill to be fighting on the Hopkins-Eastman undercard?

Honestly, I still can’t believe it. He inspires me. He motivates me. I look at what he’s achieved and what a great, great champion he is. To do what he’s done makes me want to do more. Makes me believe me it can happen for me too.

I live right, I don’t drink, I’m always in training, always in the gym. I enjoy training.

You're still loving the morning runs then Lovemore?

(Laughs) Yes I do. I remember what Marvin Hagler used to say: you can’t do your runs when you’re sleeping on silk sheets – so when the fight’s coming up I get rid of the soft tissues and sleep on the floor! (Laughing again)

It’s a famous quote, often used when talking about our own Naseem Hamed.

No, I enjoy training, everything.

Do you have a sense of how the fight may unfold? Do you like to make predictions?

No, no, I don’t make predictions. I’ll take it as it comes, I’ll do whatever it takes, whether it goes to points or knockout I will win. He can run, but I’ll catch up with him eventually.

Having gone close twice before in big fights and lost on points, will you be looking to be more decisive in this encounter?

The Sharmba Mitchell fight is the one that disappoints me the most. Everyone knows I won that fight. I beat Sharmba and that was on short notice too. But as I’ve said to you before David, I always try and turn the negative into a positive. From that came a shot at Cotto and I had to take that on short notice too. And even then I had problems. As well as the rib injury, I had problems before the fight. My wife was held in customs, they wouldn’t let her in, and so I entered the ring with my wife locked up!

No problems this time?

No problems. I’m going into the fight with a clear mind and it’s good to fight on neutral ground. I don’t have to worry about going to England to fight Witter and he doesn’t have to worry about coming to Australia. If it goes twelve rounds, we’re on neutral ground.

To conclude, do you have a view on the Hopkins fight? From what you said I suspect you think Hopkins will win easily?

No, not easily. No fight is easy and Eastman is a good fighter and I have respect for what he’s done, but ‘Nard isn’t ready to go just yet so I expect him to win.

Same goes for the Kostya Tszyu fight with Hatton.

Well I take some heed of your perspective Lovemore, given you picked Kostya to knockout Sharmba Mitchell the last time we spoke.

The only chance Ricky has is if he’s on top of Kostya the whole fight, if he allows Kostya to even take half a step he’s going to land the big right hand or left hook and it will be all over.

Pleased to see he’s finally taken a world-class test, though it may turn out to be too big.

Respect to him. The British public has been crying out for him to take the step-up and finally he is, so we’ll find out what he’s got. He’s a good fighter.

It looks like the red-hot Light-Welterweight division is going to lose a couple of names with Kostya and Miguel Cotto likely to move up to Welterweight soon.

Yeah, it’s likely they’ll move up. There are still some great contenders. You still have Gatti and Mayweather and Vivian Harris. Vivian is a great fighter. He’s really underestimated. I still think 140lbs is the toughest division out there.

This will be your first fight in a while, which is uncharacteristic given how busy you usually are. Is that due to the promotional problems you mentioned when we spoke back in September? You were hoping to be fighting Isaac Hlatshwayo.

That situation continues. I didn’t fight for D-Rush Promotions against Isaac because they still owed me money from the preceding fight. This is my profession. Why should I fight for free? If I wanted to give money to charity I would, but I’m not giving it to a company. I don’t fight for free. So the fight never happened and I’m still owed the money!

Okay Lovemore, thanks for the conversation and best wishes to you for the fight. Whatever the result I think the fans are going to have a treat. We’ll see what Junior really has.

It is going to be a great fight, drop me an email when the interview is up. I have my laptop with me in my room.

(Lovemore N’Dou, typically affable in conversation, will prove a stiff, stiff test for the aspiring Witter to pass at the Staples Center on Saturday night. The real winners are the fans, as another great fight is made in the Light-Welterweight division.)

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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